Thursday, 12 January 2023

New Zealand Calling

 Is there a tangible difference between Australia and New Zealand beyond geography? Well, they do have a lot in common - but there are real differences. Upon leaving Adelaide we stayed for a few days in Auckland, NZ residing just beneath the incredibly thin and high Sky Tower. On our first morning we visited the War Memorial Museum located in the city’s wonderful park: the Auckland Domain. The museum covers a range of topics, but we were most interested in the history of the country (and certainly not that of Stonehenge which was currently being covered as a guest display from the UK), particularly the coming of the Maoris (known to themselves as the “Mouldies”. That part of the museum began with a vast area devoted to Polynesian cultures – the true ancestors of the Maoris before their incredible journeys from the Cook and Society island groups – and it is that journey plus their settlement of New Zealand that particularly interests me.

Maoris first landed their ocean-going canoes in NZ only 800 years ago or so – whereas the original people of Australia were there 50,000 years ago when their land split from the main continent. I have a personal interest in all of this since the reason for stopping off after leaving Australia was, at least in part, to link up with our granddaughter. She was there for Christmas and New Year with her New Zealander husband (who himself has Maori ancestry) and a first chance for his family to meet their baby son, our first great grandson.

Though thrilled with the wonderful blue-green experience afforded by the landing at Auckland airport (one of the best airport approaches in my estimation), we were not that taken with our second visit to Auckland itself: we later regretted that we did not hire a car to explore the reportedly beautiful coast to the north. However, our main objective was not there so after a short stay we took the bus south travelling to the west coast via the green, lumpy countryside of those parts. Unfortunately I had return to Auckland soon after leaving because of the ‘suitcase incident’ – don’t ask. So we spent the day of New Year’s Eve travelling by bus to the island of Mount Maunganui, then on the following day I spent eight hours travelling back to Auckland and half of the next returning to the Mount. Maunganui is the place that my grandson-in-law regards as home and this is where I saw the New Year in, sitting in the garage of an Airbnb with a group of his NZ friends who displayed an enviable capacity for alcohol, cursing and beer pong. It was fun and I added just a little to the atmosphere by getting them to sing and dance to Auld Lang Syne.

The mount is a strangely fin-shaped volcanic cone at the western end of the island, itself bordered by the finest of white sand and pummelled by roaring surf which delights surfers but knocked me for six over and over again. It lies in the Bay of Plenty next to Tauranga and is known by some as the party island of the country despite severe restrictions on the consumption of alcohol outside the home (and Airbnbs).

We returned to Auckland for our next flight (to Taiwan) and had a pint in the Shakespeare Hotel which has its own brewery and was the scene of violent glass throwing on our previous visit. The beer there was not bad and the fish and chips just great. But the best pint to my mind is Galbraith’s just to the south of the city. This place is unique, not only does it have its own brewery but serves the beer at cellar temperature through a fine set of handpumps. Yes, REAL real ale. That was and I’m sure will remain, the best pint of my round the world trip. Still, when in Rome and all that. Do they serve real ale in Rome? ‘Course not.

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